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Speak up for Nevada

A protest outside the Governor's Mansion in Carson City on May 2, 2020. Photo by Michelle Rindels.

Turmoil has engulfed the Libertarian Party. The proper venue for a convention that complies with parliamentary procedure is in dispute.

This, admittedly, is not gripping stuff if you’re in the Libertarian Party. I can only imagine what it feels like to read those two sentences if you’re not. To be honest, I’ve been imagining that a bit more than usual as of late. Before I get into that, however, let’s first talk about the stupidest thing to happen at the Governor’s Mansion since Gov. Gibbons and his wife argued over who deserved to live there during their divorce proceedings. 

Yes, I’m talking about the impromptu tacticool convention that took place last Saturday.

I’m not going to bury the protesters — with all the body armor and high BMIs milling about that day, anybody that could reliably hit the broadside of a barn could safely pick each one of them off without too much trouble. Besides, there weren’t very many of them. However, it didn’t escape my notice, and it surely didn’t escape theirs, that Gov. Sisolak was talking about implementing Phase 1 at some indeterminate date — until, that is, they waved their guns around and a couple of rural counties threatened to go rogue. Then we were suddenly ahead of schedule and counties could implement their own roll-out plans.

Surely this was a data-driven decision. Surely.

Snark aside, Gov. Sisolak is probably responding to political incentives as elected officials should and do. Trouble is, Nevadans are only giving him very bad ones, which brings me back to the Libertarian Party.

The morning before the protest, the Libertarian National Committee (the governing body for the Libertarian Party) voted, 9-7 in favor of postponing the 2020 Libertarian National Convention until sometime before July 15 at a place and time to be determined. This might seem mundane at first glance, but stop and think for a moment — who would host a thousand-attendee convention this summer? 

Don’t worry, Las Vegas is off the hook. None of the potential venues there can guarantee that they’ll be open for business in July. Yes, they checked.

If that sounds like a rather important piece of information that strongly implies throwing an in-person convention this summer would be utter madness, well, apparently nobody told the LNC. All that a majority of the LNC heard, over and over again, were the problems and potential costs of cancelling an in-person convention — and none of the problems and potential costs of hosting an in-person convention. They heard all of the reasons why refusing to hold an in-person convention this summer would be impossible and none of the reasons why holding an in-person convention this summer is obviously impossible. They heard from member after member who wanted to visit their friends and throw a party and not from member after member after member who had already cancelled their travel reservations and planned to stay home for the year.

Then, unsurprisingly, they voted accordingly. 

Those of us who assumed that the sheer lunacy of trying to throw a thousand-attendee convention in the midst of a pandemic on less than two month’s notice was self-evident were shocked. Stunned. Dismayed! How could the LNC fail to see what SXSW and Burning Man and Insane Clown Posse (none of which are hosting in-person events this year) saw so clearly? Do Burners and Juggalos have more sense than Libertarians? 

That question was rhetorical. 

Seriously though, no, Burners and Juggalos aren’t any more (or less!) sensible than Libertarians or anyone else (no, really). They just got a little luckier. Their voices of reason were heard. Unfortunately, the voices of reason in the Libertarian Party took for granted the obviousness of the party’s predicament, stayed quiet, did other things and called it a day. That’s being fixed, but it’s taking a lot more effort than it would have taken if we had simply spoken up with a clear and concise message in the first place. 

Now I fear the same thing is happening to Nevada. 

Reality is incredibly complicated and the message of the protesters and rural county commissioners is simple — why shouldn’t businesses have a right to stay open? If someone wants to cut hair and someone wants their hair cut, what’s the problem? It’s a clear and simple message, even if it’s obviously wrong once you look at the regulatory and financial details of running a business. How do you run a business if half of your customers are suddenly afraid to do business with you? How long could you last like that? Is it any longer than you’d last without any income but also without most of your expenses? 

Trouble is, most of us who know these details are doing a terrible job of being as angry and loud about them as the people who think “herd immunity” means “give everyone COVID and let God sort it out.” Those of us who understand why masks are important are being shouted down by people who think that being required to wear a mask before entering private property is some sort of civil rights violation (I wonder how some of them would feel about a baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding?). We’re dying from public choice theory, where a few individuals benefit from becoming plague vectors while the rest of us suffer from a thousand viral cuts. 

Unless we want to let these people control the narrative and push our politicians around, it’s time to get loud and angry. It’s time to get every bit as loud and every bit as angry as the people shouting and waving firearms on our streets.

What do I mean by that? For starters, the armed activists who escorted black lawmakers in Michigan have the right idea. Those armed activists didn’t have to threaten anyone; on the contrary, they were peacefully protecting people. They also made their point, both to the protesters and to the lawmakers. An armed society is only a polite society when everybody knows everybody else is or could be armed. A society in which one group is armed and assumes everyone else is unarmed gets very impolite – and very dangerous – rather quickly. 

Having said that, though extremism in defense of liberty may not be a vice, that doesn’t mean it’s mandatory. There are other, less potentially violent ways to demonstrate support for the public health measures most of us are already performing voluntarily. Wear a mask. Refuse to shop at stores that don’t require customers to wear masks, if you can. Advocate for more testing and volunteer for tracing. Call your city councilperson. Call your legislators (half of them are running for re-election right now, so, believe me, they’d love to hear from you). Call the governor’s office — but please call no more than once a day. The state needs all of the phone trunk capacity it can get to adjudicate unemployment claims. 

The protesters and their political enablers have benefited from being the loudest voice in the room through this pandemic, but they’re not the most numerous, not by a long shot. That’s good for the rest of us because it means we don’t have to shout quite so loud to be heard, but we still need to speak. 

Don’t just stay home for Nevada. Speak up for Nevada — preferably from home.

David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at [email protected].

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